Parshat Tzav: Keeping burning the fire of love

We have referred to fire as a multidimensional element because of its destroying and transforming nature, not only to what we see but also to what we don’t see. In this context fire can be the subject of lengthy consideration and study in terms of its physical and metaphysical qualities. Hence the Torah tells us about material fire and divine fire, blended in the ritual offerings brought to the Temple of Jerusalem.

Let’s reflect for a moment on the physical qualities of fire, defined in chemistry as a catalyst or transformer of matter from one particular state to another. We learn to use it according to the purpose we want, and the way we see this in action is in cooking our meals. We all agree that fire is indeed a good element as water, air and earth also are. Thus we realize that fire has the power to destroy, for it consumes air and other kinds of matter without leaving any trace.

This challenges chemistry’s principle that matter does not create of destroys itself but transforms itself. This empirical and elemental definition of fire invites us to have a similar approach in regards to the metaphysical qualities of fire, which relates more with what the Torah calls the fire of God. There are qualities both fires share in their respective material and spiritual realms and functions.

Divine fire can either burn and eliminate mental or emotional conditions or transform them. This reminds us God’s commandment to the children of Israel to destroy and subjugate the nations that settled the Promised Land in order to fulfill His will. These nations were either destroyed or made them subservient to Israel, and the latter case is equivalent to being transformed in order to contribute in God’s plan for the world.

“This is the law of the burnt-offering, of the meal-offering, and of the sin-offering, and of the guilt-offering, and of the consecration-offering, and of the elevation of peace-offerings.” (Leviticus 7:37)

In this portion of the Torah the Creators commands us to elevate various kinds of offerings by transforming them through both material and divine fires. Our sages tell us that the material fire used to burn the offerings was minimal, because the major consuming fire was God’s fire descending from heaven.

After the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, our sages introduced the daily Jewish prayers to resemble the ritual offerings in order to maintain in our individual and collective awareness the function and purpose of the permanent bonding of our love and God’s love, and remove or transform our transgressions and negative approach to life into positive thoughts and actions.

We must assimilate that in the Torah every single occurrence, situation, episode and circumstance, contain ethical meanings and messages including the elements that comprise life. Fire is no exception. We mentioned above its multidimensional qualities related to physicality and spirituality, for we can experience the fire of anger, the fire of love, the fire of passion, etc.

In the context of elevating our consciousness to the Creator we realize that God’s fire is certainly His love, either for destroying our negative traits and trends from our thoughts, feelings, emotions and instincts, or for transforming them into driving forces to be, to have and to manifest the positive qualities and expressions of goodness.

“A constant fire shall burn upon the altar, it shall never go out.” (6:6)

Thus we understand that the fire of our love as the small material and human flame that reaches up to God’s fire is the means to elevate all aspects and dimensions of life, and make them serve His will that is making goodness prevail in the material world. In this awareness we realize that the fire of our love must be burning permanently in order to bond with the eternal burning love of God.

“And the house of Jacob has been a fire and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble. And they have burned among them and they have consumed them, and there is not a remnant to the house of Esau; for the Lord has spoken.” (Ovadiah 1:18)

Only thus we are truly able to eliminate the chaff of ego’s fantasies and illusions with their negative expressions (represented by Esau’s stubble), and enter the expressions of the higher realms of goodness that await us in Israel’s final redemption.

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Kochav Yaakov.
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